A harrowing exhibition has recreated the outfits rape survivors were wearing when they were attacked to challenge insidious myths around sexual violence.
The ‘What were you wearing? exhibition at the Centre Communautaire Maritime in the Molenbeek district of Brussels is designed to challenge the one of the most ‘pervasive rape culture myths’ – that victims are somehow ‘responsible’ for being assaulted because of their clothing.
It features 18 different outfits, including a tiny My Little Pony t-shirt that looks as if it belongs to a child as young as three, to a man’s jeans and t-shirt, tracksuit bottoms, and a shirt and trousers.
The outfits were assembled after student survivors from Kansas submitted descriptions of what they were wearing when they experienced sexual violence and create a visual representation of their stories.
Delphine Goossens, Molenbeek prevention service’s project manager, told Femail: The intent of the Installation is to create a tangible response to one of our most pervasive rape culture myths. The belief that clothing or what someone what wearing “causes” rape is extremely damaging for survivors.
‘What were you wearing? exhibition is running in Molenbeek district of Brussels, featuring clothing that represents accounts of rape by students from the University of Kansas
Among the heartbreaking items in the exhibition include a My LIttle Pony t-shirt that looks as if it belongs to a child as young as three
Delphine Goossens, Molenbeek prevention service’s project manager said that most visitors are struck by how simple the exhibition is
This installation allows participants to see themselves reflected in not only the outfits, but also in the experiences of the survivors.’
She added that she hopes the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about all the stereotypes surrounding rape and how so many of us participate, albeit unconsciously, in perpetuating these.
We still tell our young girls to pay attention to what they are wearing but we still do not teach our boys to not abuse,’ Delphine explained.
‘We would like people to understand that every women could wear what they want, they shouldn’t be attacked. That’s what the exhibition shows: no outfit prevents rape.’
Both male and female outfits feature in the exhibition, based on real accounts by rape survivors
According to Delphine, the exhibition challenges all stereotypes around rape and aims to make people consider their own role in perpetuating them
Delphine said that visitors to the exhibition are immediately hit by how mundane and simple it all looks.
She said: ‘And then they realise the absurdity of believing that an outfit can prevent a rape and also realise the importance of not blaming the victim, even if it is sometimes unconscious.
‘I hope everyone will be able to question the rape culture in which we live, and act in their own way to help victims.’
What were you wearing? runs at the Maritime Community Centre in Sit-Jans-Molenbeek until 20 January.
Clothing in the exhibition proves that anyone is vulnerable to attack, regardless of age, gender or what they are wearing
What were you wearing? runs at the Maritime Community Centre in Sit-Jans-Molenbeek until 20 January